The Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia is the main attraction of El Calafate. If your Patagonia journey is south to north, you may have just completed the W Trek upon your arrival in El Calafate. You are probably on a triumphant but fatigued high! The good news is that you will only be doing very casual walking when doing the Perito Moreno glacier day trip.
Perito Moreno Glacier | Day Trip
The glacier forms part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field; the third largest in the world behind Antarctica and Greenland! The glacier itself is absolutely magnificent. To that end, here’s our Perito Moreno glacier guide.
STORY TIME: Personally, this was also a highlight of our Patagonia trip because we crossed paths with a friend we had met in South America 4 years earlier. Awaiting our respective flights home to Australia and the US from Santiago Airport in 2016, we got to talking in a bar watching the Superbowl final. We instantly clicked. It’s like we had been mates for years. Over the coming years, we talked travel and hiking. Then unexpectedly, we realised we’d be in Patagonia at the same time with the same itinerary. Plus, we realised this only a fortnight before we went. It’s truly incredible that our paths crossed here. It’s amazing what the travel gods can throw your way!
Beck and I thrive off travelling together as a couple. But it’s always fantastic to share travel experiences with other travellers.
Visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier
Day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier: Once you have arrived, the entrance fee is $700ARS ($11USD). The glacier itself is truly breathtaking. A boardwalk system is made up of about 4km of interconnected paths. We walked about 2-3km of these trails. It was easy to follow a set of loops consisting of several tracks. This ensured we saw the glacier from all different angles. It certainly made for a leisurely stroll. Take photos and patiently watch and wait for the spectacular show of a thunderous boom and subsequent ice break and fall.
Although sad times with global warming contributing to this more than it should! You will even have enough time if you wanted to do a three hour return boat tour ($1200-1500ARS/$18-24USD). We opted not to as we had a fantastic time just casually strolling the walkways. Although we’re sure the boat tour would be a great experience nevertheless. For more information, check out Why Not Talk’s experiences on doing the boat tour.
Perito Moreno Glacier Day Trip Recap
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one the most outstanding natural attractions in the whole of Patagonia. Despite being a popular tourist destination and global warming contributing to its demise, the glacier is certainly still worth visiting. Honestly speaking, you won’t need a lot time in El Calafate. But make sure you still make time to visit this town so you can go and enjoy the breath-taking Perito Moreno glacier.
Getting to El Calafate: The Gateway to the Perito Moreno Glacier
Bus: If you are in Puerto Natales following the W Trek, we would recommend booking a bus to El Calafate for the following morning you arrive back. Using Busbud, we paid $20USD/person and the bus departed 7:30am. Be aware that the ticket will have 1pm as the arrival time to El Calafate. However, the border crossing took us nearly 2 hours so your actual arrival time will be closer to 3pm. Because you will be seeing the glacier the next day, this is nothing to be stressed about!
If you are coming from the opposite direction, you’ll likely be catching a 3 hour bus from El Chaltén down to El Calafate for around $18USD/person.
This is of course unless you decide to hire a car. We found car hire would be too expensive and also difficult with crossing borders. So that’s why we decided buses were the way to go in Patagonia. But if you decide to hire a car, we recommend using RentalCars.com if booking in advance online. Otherwise, booking upon arrival at a local car hire agency may be more risky in terms of availability and reliability but may also be cheaper.
Getting to the Perito Moreno Glacier
Shuttle bus: Luckily for us, the previously mentioned friend of ours had rented a car and kindly drove us to and from the glacier. Otherwise, we would have definitely needed to get the return shuttle bus for $800ARS ($12.50USD) as there is no public transport option.
As of May 2019, the most common option is a 7:30am or 8:15am departure with a return from the site’s car park at 4pm. The journey takes 90 minutes so this will give you ample time at the glacier!
Booking the shuttle bus to Perito Moreno glacier the day before departure is highly recommended. So when you arrive into El Calafate mid afternoon, we know it’s tempting to head straight to your accommodation. But considering the main bus station is on the outskirts of town, we’d recommend booking these tickets there and then. This will save the hassle of having to head back to the bus station that same day.
If you are blessed with sunshine for your El Calafate day trip, make sure you wear a decent pair of polarised sunglasses. They will help protect your eyes from any glare from the glacier and water.
Accommodation in El Calafate
Hostel Aves del Lago: Using booking.com, we booked a private room for 2 people for 1 night at Hostel Aves del Lago for $22USD. The location was really nice, with views to Lago Argentino. You will also be within walking distance of Reserva Laguna Nimez. The reserve even has flamingos, but we thought the $500ARS ($8USD) entrance fee was steep. But again, our good friends at Why Not Walk checked it out, so click here for more details on Laguna Nimez.
The accommodation is quite small with only a few tiny rooms. But there are 2 separate kitchens so there were no queues to cook! The host was lovely and offered a currency exchange service that was a better rate than in town. In regards to Airbnb, we don’t recall finding any property availability in El Calafate.
Getting out of El Calafate
Bus: Seeing the glacier was the only activity we chose to do as part of our El Calafate day trip. Because you will be back in town by 5:30pm, if you are heading north, we recommend getting a bus that same day to El Chaltén. We booked a 9pm departure through Busbud with Chaltén Travel for $17.50USD/person. It arrived into El Chaltén around midnight. This maximised our time in El Chaltén; an amazing town for outdoor enthusiasts.
Alternatively, if you will be getting the bus to Puerto Natales, leaving El Calafate the day of seeing the glacier will not be possible. This is because the only departure times during peak season are 7:30am and 8am.
Buying Supplies in El Calafate
La Anónima: There is a café at the entrance office but as usual, packing your own food is a wise investment! We stocked up on lunch and snacks at La Anónima.
- Bus to El Calafate: $20USD/person.
- Accommodation: $22USD for 2 people.
- The shuttle bus: $11.50USD/person.
- Perito Moreno glacier entrance: $11USD/person.
- Bus to El Chalten: $17.50/person.
- Groceries: $10USD/person.
Travel Essentials for the Perito Moreno Glacier
- The North Face TKA Glacier snap fleece jacket – can get very cold and windy near the glacier.
- The North Face Venture 2 waterproof/windproof jacket – ditto
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – perfect for storing your things whilst exploring in the glacier.
- Ray-Ban Polarised Clubmaster Square Sunglasses – to avoid significant glare from the glacier on a sunny day, wear sunnies!
- Nikon D3400 Digital SLR Camera – a great entry-level DLSR camera to capture the glacier in all its glory.
Unpredictable Costs: In 2020, the economy in Argentina is very unstable. When searching online for current information of prices for tours, buses etc., you will find blogs that claim in their heading to be up to date with the latest information. But unfortunately, in the majority of cases, their information is incorrect. It’s not their fault though, prices are constantly changing.
So as a general guide, you should always convert Argentine pesos ($ARS) to $USD. For example, if the Perito Moreno Glacier entrance fee currently costs $700ARS, that’s equivalent to $11USD. But in a few months, the price might inflate to $900ARS for the same ticket. However, this new price is $ARS will most likely still be of similar value in $USD. Adversely, the economy improves, the entrance fee is now $600ARS, but it may still convert to around $11USD. We are not economists. But simply put, prepare for inflated prices in $ARS. So have more $ARS on you just in case. But don’t stress as this won’t cost you more in terms of $USD!
- Be friendly travellers: People at our accommodation had hired a car and were lovely enough to offer us a ride to the Perito Moreno glacier and back. Because we had friends already driving us, we declined their kind offer. But if we hadn’t already had a lift organised, that would have been a great opportunity to share a ride and only have to chip in for petrol! Much cheaper than the shuttle bus.
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